Flower size and shape: Implications in pollination

Amots Dafni, Peter G. Kevan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 42 plant species, the flowers' en face planar projected areas, contour lengths, and the ratios between them (= contour densities) were measured in relation to their pollinators, type of reward, and flower shape. A significant correlation exists between the planar projected area and contour density, which indicates that small flowers have broken outlines. Beetles were found to be associated more with large, rounded (bowl-shaped) flowers. Small bees, in contrast to medium and large bees, were associated significantly more with small flowers having broken outlines (i.e., high contour densities). Each factor examined (pollinator, flower shape, and reward) and each possible interaction among them, is significantly related to the values of each morphological variable. This implies that each category of pollinator (beetles, small, and medium-large bees) is associated with a syndrome of dependent floral characteristics (size, shape, and reward). We propose that the greater contour density of smaller flowers compensates for their smaller size by increasing visibility and the broken outline shapes act as “form guides” in the orientation, landing, and foraging by pollinators of flowers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-211
Number of pages11
JournalIsrael Journal of Plant Sciences
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 1997

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We wish to thank M. Giurfa, S. Corbet, D. Firmage, M. Lehrer, R. Menzel, P. Neal, and Ch. Westerkamp for their comments on the various drafts of this article, and A. Beiles for his statistical advice. We are grateful toM. Offer for his assistance in measuring the flowers. Both authors are grateful to their respective granting agencies for financial support, P.G.K. to NSERC research grant, and A.D. to Schussheim' s fund for Ecological Research at Mt. Carmel.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science


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